Yesterday we all went down into the copper mines in Falun that made the Swedenborg family incredibly wealthy. The parts of the mine that we went into were the primary sections that were mined in the 17th and 18th centuries, with many of the boards we walked on being original to that time.
We saw a bucket that was used to bring both copper ore, supplies, and people in and out of the mine. Listening to our tour guide talk about the bucket really resonated with Swedenborg’s poem about when he himself was going down into the mine via a bucket.
As we experienced the mine and heard the stories about what it was like to be down there in the 18th century, it was easy to understand why Swedenborg wrote about the mines as being a hell on earth. They were hot with fire and putting off tons of toxic smoke and they quite literally led you down into the underworld on a physical level.
The same reading that we did that included the poem about the mines also presented an idea that really helps us to understand how Swedenborg experienced both heaven and hell while here on earth. For him, the mines provided some imagery and a feeling of what hell would be like–the fire, the darkness, the lack of air, the constant threat of danger, and the unnatural plunge into the depths. It was his example of hell on earth.
The contrast to this, Swedenborg’s heaven on earth was his garden. In his garden he cultivated a space of life, with many beautiful plants and tree sculptures of animals, birds chirping, with music playing and spaces to leisure and to play. His garden was very much an example of his paradise here on earth.
Although we cannot fully experience the joy of the garden, we were able to see his summer house, as well as, the site where it originally sat. We also were able to see an incredible diorama of the garden while we were visiting the Swedenborgian church in Stockholm.
Being able to experience the mines and learn more about the garden helps us to learn not only more about Swedenborg’s life, but also to see how his life related to his writings, how the theology and the ideas were lived and how they came to be.